Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Six Questions for Maura Snell and Jennifer Porter, Co-Founders, The Tishman Review

The Tishman Review publishes micro-fiction to 250 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, short stories to 8,000 words, creative non-fiction to 3,000 words, poetry (all kinds), art/photography/comics, book reviews, and craft essays. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Maura Snell (Poetry Editor): We decided to start TTR because we wanted to publish great words.

Jennifer Porter (Fiction Editor): To do things differently. To go against some of the tides in the lit mag world that disturb me. To give space to authors whose voices we need to hear. I want to publish fiction that is good for the soul: whether it makes us laugh, cry or feel anger; confronts our preconceived notions about life and other people; makes us uncomfortable by challenging our hidden beliefs/stereotypes/ ‘isms; or forces us to see beauty where prior we saw only something malformed/useless/ugly.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

Maura: The poetry I find myself loving is authentic, has a strong handle on craft, but not so reliant on it that authenticity is lost, and makes me feel something unexpected, see something from a new angle, or exposes me to something I haven't known or understood before.

Jennifer: I look for an engaging submission with well-crafted prose that bears an authentic voice. I look for a narrative arc, well-rounded characters, engaging and forward-moving dialogue and for a thoughtful use of language.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

Maura: Wordiness. Cleverness. Vulgarity.  These are so often employed in place of the truth.

Jennifer: What turns me off are submissions that I feel lack in investment on behalf of the author: The prose needs a lot of work, the piece is not a story but a string of episodes, the submission perpetuates harmful stereotypes of any segment of our society. I don’t like the feeling that I’m reading a first draft, or a rushed-off piece, or a piece produced with elements that I can tell are used solely to induce the editor to accept it for publication. I’ve lived long enough to know when an author isn’t being truthful with me in their work, what I think Hemingway referred to as bleeding on the page, but that is precisely what I’m looking for.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

Maura: Yes, I try to every time. I think every writer, regardless of the quality of their submission, deserves something back in exchange for trusting me with their words. I don't go into too much detail, but I do try to say what I like about the work and what I think might benefit from revision.

Jennifer: If someone submits a piece as Expedited Fiction they get personal feedback from me. I do things a bit differently in that I read all of the submissions as the first reader. Anything that makes it past me goes to our readers. Sometimes, it falls there and when it does, I usually send personal feedback. I will also ask for revisions on pieces of interest to us. If I think the piece bears a personal investment from the author, I try to provide some measure of feedback.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

Maura: So much is about process. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read.

Jennifer: I’ve learned that you better catch that editor’s eye in the first couple of paragraphs and that there are good stories written that may not get published because lit mag readers are busy and have high expectations. They want to be awed and amazed by every single story they read and they don't have the time to keep looking for that feeling five pages into a story. Somehow, we have to grab the reader’s attention and hold it tight in our grasp. I’ve learned that we all expect stories to be just that, stories, even if they are flash fiction. I’ve learned that every writer must work not only on their prose but on their storytelling and when they fuse the two together, the reader remains engaged.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

Maura: What's your favorite part of the job?

Finding new poets, or at least the poets who are new to me.  I love being gripped by a poem, accepting the work, then seeing who wrote it (because we read totally blind) and Googling them. It's like a crazy treasure hunt, or a positive "who done it". To me, they are true celebrities because, my God, have you seen what they wrote?!

Jennifer: Why does TTR read blind?

We read blind for several reasons. Primarily because we want to judge the work on its own merits and not on the author’s bio. Secondly, because we are a part of the Bennington Writing Seminars community, and we did not want to be accused of nepotism when it came to publishing work.  Having said that, our first tickler issue (a mini-issue to get our feet wet) was primarily solicited (one story came off the pile) and we will publish work in the future, on occasion, that we solicit. Bennington produces amazing writers, and I’m not going to pass on an amazing story because it happened to also be written by a good friend of mine. But, being from Bennington does not give you any advantage at TTR over any other writer who sends work our way. We will always publish the best stories we receive, irregardless of who wrote them.

Thank you, Maura and Jennifer. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 3/20—Six Questions for Lisa Beth Fulgham, Managing and Founding Editor, Blinders Literary Journal

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